A weed is often said to be simply “a plant in the wrong place”. Sometimes, weeds grow where you don’t want vegetation, such as cracks in a driveway or throughout your lawn. Other times, they aggressively compete with other plants for space, water, nutrients and sunlight. Left unchecked, these pests will simply become better entrenched and further spread. Here’s how to snip the problem in the bud the smart way.
Pick the right tools
Weeds didn’t get where they are today without being tough. While bare hands are perfectly suitable for firmly built but weakly rooted weeds with no defenses, effective tools are preferred for almost every other situation. Steel garden trowels or knives and spades or mattocks make it easy to cut into soil and uproot well-established weeds. Long-handled standup weed removal tools require good aim but can allow you to roam your garden and yard and root up weeds without the need to stoop. Gloves are recommended for protection against irritants, spines, thorns and other hazards.
Time your attack
When to remove weeds can be almost as important as how. Weeding when the soil is moist means weeds can be removed easier and more effectively. After a rain shower or a watering, when the soil is still damp but you can work without getting muddy, is often an ideal time. For your own comfort during hot summers, weeding in the morning or early evening will help you beat the heat. Rather than weeding your whole garden or yard in one go, do so every few days so you catch any weeds that haven’t sprouted yet.
Know your enemy
Not all weeds are alike, and therefore, not all weeds are best removed the same way.
Weeds such as nutsedge and plantain grow in clumps and have strong, fibrous roots that anchor them well. Use a trowel to lift from beneath where the roots and stem meet, then carefully remove the entire plant by pulling on the crown using your free hand.
Some weeds spread by horizontal offshoots such as runners and rhizomes. For tough varieties such as quackgrass and torpedograss, dig deep with a mattock or spade to ensure you’ve removed every part of the plants. Even broken rhizomes can regrow, so take care to locate and discard them all.
Weeds that spread by seed should be removed promptly before they cast new weeds-to-be across your property.
Keep them from coming back
Weeding carelessly can mean the weeds will simply return quickly to the areas you’ve cleared.
Collect all weeds in a bag or bucket as you work to prevent their roots and seeds from springing back to life where they fall. If you plan on composting them, consider letting them bake in the sun for a couple days to ensure they’re down for the count.
How you maintain your soil is also a big factor in how and if weeds spread. It’s always best to avoid disturbing your soil as much as possible so that dormant seeds aren’t exposed to sunlight and allowed to sprout. Applying mulch after weeding is a great way to both prevent existing seeds from sprouting while stopping new seeds from embedding in the soil.
No matter how thorough your weeding, some weeds will always return. Seeds carried by the wind, bird droppings or new soil or plants you introduce simply cannot be avoided. Therefore, you must be vigilant and continue to remove weeds as they appear. There’s no silver bullet to banishing these garden invaders, but if you maintain a smart routine, you can enjoy pristine plots and planters without wasting effort.